Bylaw creating headaches

City of Vernon forcing owners of illegal suites (which provide affordable housing) into debt

My husband and I live in a two-level home built in 2010 with a suite in the basement built solely for the purpose of housing my elderly parents.

As a former nurse, I am able to provide support for my father and mother so they can continue to live together in a safe environment.

No too long ago, someone in the neighbourhood reported that we had an illegal suite and the nightmare began. True, my basement has a stove. My father is a very good cook and provides all meals for them both. Apparently, this was the main concern of the bylaw officer.

Bylaw 1520 may also be cited as Rental Unit Standard of Maintenance Bylaw.

First of note is that this bylaw is referring to rental units, ours is not a rental unit. What it becomes should we sell the house in a few years is of no consequence to us and we should not have to pay to have a rental unit just because one day it might be a rental unit. Also for interest sake, did you know that bylaw officers have no concern about your rental suite unless someone complains about it?

Now, from my understanding, all of the renovations we need to make are simply because my mother and father’s home has a stove in it. We are asked to put in two solid, steel fire doors (that makes three doors within three feet of each other) at a cost of $1,400, dampers in all of the vents upstairs and fireboard the furnace room walls (the ceiling of the entire suite has fireboard on it already).

The total cost has not yet been established but it has cost us $200 for an application for a permit for a secondary suite, $90 for the initial inspection, $100 for a building permit and $60 a year for a business license.

I was able to convince city staff we are not a business. We make no profit off this suite and therefore we are not running a business but are simply providing a place for my parents to live. They agreed we did not need to pay the business license.

Bylaw 5120 addresses water and sanitation, heat, light, egress, security and  mandatory provision of services and utilities. No where does it address the issue of having a stove in the suite.

No where does it provide direction on how the suite is to be secured because of a stove. No where does it say that if there is a stove, there needs to be fire doors,  dampers, fireboarding  or even smoke detectors.

Page eight of the bylaw addresses the notice to comply standards and once again it is referring to a rental premise.

So why is the city making it so difficult to keep relatives, especially elderly family members in our own homes? All of the requirements made to use by the bylaw officer were based on the fact that there is a stove in my parent’s suite. Where does it say in this bylaw that we need to make all of these costly changes because of a stove?

To add insult to injury, they now say we need to pay separate water, sewer and garbage for the suite.

I guess that means we pay the base rate twice. Not sure on that one.

I hope this will help someone else navigate the muddy waters of bylaw 5120 of the City of Vernon.

Be prepared. Someone wants your money and don’t make your neighbours upset because they obviously have more power than you do.

No grace for those who are trying to do the right thing and keep their relatives safe and comfortable.


Debbie Sparrow, Vernon